“You dear little thing! I do like you in your habit,” cried she. “Turn round—it fits beautifully. So you have been having a ride with the doctor, and seeing everybody, I suppose? Mrs. Wiley wonders when you will call.”
“Oh yes, Bessie dear, you must not neglect Mrs. Wiley,” said Mrs. Carnegie.
“It will do some day with Lady Latimer—she has constant business at the rectory,” Bessie said. She did not wish to waste this precious afternoon in duty-visits to people she did not care for.
“Well, I was to have written to you, and I never did,” recommenced Miss Buff.
“Out of sight, out of mind: don’t apologize!”
But Miss Buff would explain and extenuate her broken promise: “The fact is, my hands are almost too full: what with the school and the committee, the organ and church, the missionary club and my district, I am a regular lay-curate. Then there is Mr. Duffer’s early service, eight o’clock; and Fridays and Wednesdays and all the saints’ days, and decorating for the great festivals—perhaps a little too much of that, but on Whitsunday the chancel was lovely, was it not, Mrs. Carnegie?” Mrs. Carnegie nodded her acquiescence. “Then I have a green-house at last, and that gives me something to do. I should like to show you my green-house, Bessie. But you must be used to such magnificent things now that perhaps you will not care for my small place.”
“I shall care as much as ever. I prefer small things to great yet.”
“And my fowl-house—you shall see that—and my pigeons. You used to be so fond of live creatures, Bessie.”
“By the by, Miss Buff, have you discovered yet the depredator of your poultry-yard?” Mrs. Carnegie asked.
“No, but I have put a stop to his depredations. I strongly suspect that pet subject of Miss Wort’s—that hulking, idle son of Widow Burt. I am sorry for her, but he is no good. You know I wrote to the inspector of police at Hampton. Did I not tell you? No! Well, but I did, and said if he would send an extra man over to stay the night in the house and watch who stole my pigeons, he should have coffee and hot buttered toast; and I dare say Eppie would not have objected to sit up with him till twelve. However, the inspector didn’t—he did not consider it necessary—but the ordinary police probably watched, for I have not been robbed since. And that is a comfort; I hate to sleep with one eye open. You are laughing, Bessie; you would not laugh if you had lost seven pigeons ready to go into a pie, and all in the space of ten days. I am sure that horrid Burt stole ’em.”
Bessie still laughed: “Is your affection so material? Do you love your pigeons so dearly that you eat them up?” said she.
“What else should I keep them for? I should be overrun with pigeons but for putting them in pies; they make the garden very untidy as it is. I have given up keeping ducks, but I have a tame gull for the slugs. Who is this at the gate? Oh! Miss Wort with her inexhaustible physic-bottle. Everybody seems to have heard that you are here, Bessie.”